The Ultimate DIY Custom Guitar Tutorial

October 26, 2016 4 min read

Graphic acoustic guitar.

Whether you play for fun or professionally, you want a guitar that represents you. But face it, a new and custom guitar is expensive. If you want that custom guitar of your dreams, you have to embrace your DIY side.

Doing your own guitar customization and personalization can save you anywhere from $200 to even a grand! Therefore, you can change your guitar’s look more often and style it up for different gigs, music videos, and photo shoots.

And you don’t have to be naturally crafty to make a cool custom guitar.

If you’re completely new to DIY, you’ve come to the right place. DIY guitar customization is easy to learn, and even the simplest tricks can take your guitar from boring to eye-catching.

So let’s break down the DIY custom guitar tips you have to know.

Come Up With A Custom Guitar Plan

If you want to do a great customization job on your own, you need to have a plan. Your guitar is your baby and winging it could be a huge mistake.

First, think about the overall look you want for your custom guitar. Ask yourself these questions while you brainstorm:

  • What color schemes appeal to me?
  • What mood am I going for?
  • What visuals inspire me? (Galaxies, mountain ranges, events, etc.)
  • What theme do I want to capture?

You don’t want to overwhelm your custom guitar with too much design and accouterments. That’s why it’s just as important to edit.

The following tools are extremely helpful for nailing down that final design:

  • Color Wheel: Use a color wheel to learn which colors go best with one another, otherwise known as supplementary and complementary colors.
  • Beginning drawing and painting books: Beginning art books can teach you basic techniques for composition.
  • Stencils: Stencils are great if you have difficulty drawing precise shapes.
  • Sketchpads and tracing vellum: Draw out your ideas first before customizing. Use tracing vellum to create more accurate designs.
  • Colored pencils: Use colored pencils to test out your color choices first.
  • Magazines and image libraries: Looking for inspiration to strike? Research magazines and online image libraries to inspire creative ideas.

Soup Up Your Custom Guitar Body with Stickers

Sick of looking at that plain guitar body?

Fortunately, this is one of the easiest remedies in the book. Adding special stickers and decals can completely change the style of your guitar. Moreover, they’re designed to mimic the look of real inlay work!

If you want to a space-age guitar, for example, add constellation decals to your body and star stickers to your fretboard. Likewise, leafy inlay and fretboard stickers would make for an eye-popping environmental design.

There are even simple decals that mimic the look of classic, all natural wood guitars. Basically, if you have an idea, there’s a good chance there’s a sticker for that.

Removable stickers and decals are especially helpful for children’s music teachers, wedding singers, birthday acts, and anyone else who needs to frequently change the look of their guitar.

Feeling Bold? Use Sharpies and Stencils

If you cringe at the word “sharpie” then you may want to look away for this one. However, one of the best ways to capture that tattooed look is with sharpies and stencils.

Most importantly, you can create a more personal, “lived in” look with sharpies. You tell stories as a musician, and a custom guitar covered in doodles is a story in itself.

To nail down a cool doodled look, practice your doodles on a separate piece of paper first. Free draw any symbols, letters, words, or iconography that strikes you. You can also use tracing paper and magazines to collect more images.

You could also design a large graphic to sharpie onto your guitar instead. For this technique, you’ll want to draw a pencil outline on the guitar first. You can’t afford to make any mistakes with a sharpie in hand.

Don’t forget that sharpies come in different colors, not just classic black, so have at it!

Upgrade Your Tuners

Don’t let this tip slip through the cracks.

Just the simplest turner upgrade can make a world of difference. Consider these designs for your custom guitar:

  • Multi-colored metallic tuners: These are great for adding a simple splash of color.
  • Antique brass tuners: Perfect for creating a classic, sophisticated look.
  • Skull and crossbones tuners: Ideal for metal bands and goth shows.
  • Owl tuners: These guys really stand out, and perfect for young beginners.
  • Steampunk style: Add metal engraved tuners to give your guitar a subtle steampunk touch.

You can also clip on digital tuners to fine-tune your sound with even more accuracy.

Re-Design Your Guitar Straps & Other Accessories

Your guitar strap is one of the easiest elements you can change.

You can run out to the mall, but you need a wide selection to choose from.

Instead, more musicians and hobby players are opting to personalize their own guitar straps online using their own unique designs. Bands and small production companies, for example, can print their original logos on their straps, making online personalization a quick and cheap self-marketing tool.

With a new guitar strap in tow, you may want to consider these tiny but important details:

  • Tye a classic bandana around the nut of your guitar to nail down that vintage look.
  • Add new bindings to your electric guitar to freshen it up. Bindings come in a large selection of colors, swirls, marbleization.
  • Change out your guitar strings. Guitar strings come in different colors, glow in the dark, and metallics.
  • Switch out your bridge pins. Bridge pins come in classic abalone, brass, and ebony.
  • Add new pick up covers. This is a clever DIY tip for Stratocaster owners. Shake up your pick up covers with new or alternating colors.
  • Change out your knobs. Knobs are easy to replace, plus, you can find them in brass, shell, semi-precious stone, and more materials.

Think your guitar is finally ready for that makeover?

Remember that a little goes a long way with DIY. Come up with a customization plan for your guitar and use these tips to craft a totally unique look for your custom guitar.